Valvular Stenosis

(Heart Valve Disease)

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The picture above depicts a normal heart on the left and a heart with Valvular Stenosis on the right.

What is Valvular Stenosis?

Valvular Stenosis is a disease occurring in one or multiple valves of the heart, where there is a blockage, stiffening, narrowing, or thickening of the valve(s). Because of the blockage in a certain valve, the heart works harder to pump blood through the valve. These complications can lead to heart failure.

Causes

Congenital: Some children are born with heart defects, which could include a narrowing of any four valves of the heart. Heart defects may include abnormally numbered flaps on the valve(s). The defect may not show signs of complication until adulthood, however.

Calcium Buildup: Heart valves accumulate calcium deposits over time from the blood flow constantly running through them. This buildup may start to show complications with age, especially in those with congenital heart defects. In some, the calcium deposits lead to stiff valves, which do not allow for proper blood flow through the heart.

Rheumatic Fever: Rheumatic fever, if contracted previously, can lead to scar tissue forming on heart valves. These excess tissues can lead to narrowing of the valves alone, but can also collect calcium and contribute to calcium buildup on it's rough surface.

Incidence

Valvular Stenosis occurs in about 7% of the U.S. population over the age of 65. The probability of Valvular Stenosis onset is less likely in younger people, and increases in susceptibility with age.

Prevention

Valvular Stenosis specifically is non-preventable, save for maintaining good heart health and taking good care of one's body. To prevent pressure buildup in the heart valves (and thus heart disease), maintain good cholesterol levels and a healthy weight. Also beware of dental procedures which may introduce bacteria into the bloodstream and infect a defected heart valve.
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Risk Factors

There are many risk factors leading to heart disease, the biggest contributor being age. Also contributing to heart health complications are high cholesterol levels and/or blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, obesity, unhealthy lifestyle (diet & physical activity), and a family history of heart defects.

Treatment Options

Heart valve repair and replacement are possible for those diagnosed with Valvular Stenosis. There are no medicines to cure heart valve disease, however, blood thinning medications are available for those who have undergone a valve replacement to smooth the flow of blood thereafter.

Repair surgeries often involve the reshaping, separating, removal, or addition of valve flap tissue. Replacement valves can be taken from pig, cow, or human heart tissue, as well as synthetic tissue.

There are new treatment options in development for Valvular Stenosis, including a less invasive surgery which essentially does the same as the old technique: reshapes the heart valves. The new surgery involves creating a smaller incision to reach the heart valves or insertion of synthetic tubes to reach the major vessels. However, these surgeries are at a higher risk of complication and infection and are still being explored by cardiologists.

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